Thru-Hiking the AT: Why I’m Thru-Hiking after College Graduation

A Brief Intro

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to thru-hike in the past couple months. I’m not the most experienced backpacker, and the decision to do a thru with less than a year to prepare is intimidating to me and for everyone I know. Most people probably don’t know that I’ve been seriously considering thru-hiking, but I figure the best way to do this is to say that I am so I can’t back out just because it’s intimidating. So here’s my justification for thru-hiking. My hopes are that this justification will help other prospective thru-hikers, as well as commit myself to actually thru-hiking. So here begins why I want to thru-hike the AT in 2020.

I’m graduating college this year, one year early. There was a time I didn’t think I was going to make it to the point of graduating. Not because of grades or anything academic, but because of internal struggles I had been having for a while. Having major depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and some pretty traumatic experiences my freshman year, I really didn’t think I’d live to graduate. This might come as a surprise to some, but it’s the cold hard facts of the beginning of my college experience. Fast forward to my sophomore and junior years of college, I’m living back in New York state, graduating in May 2020 with a BS in public health, and life is pretty OK. I certainly can’t say that everything is perfect, that I’m never depressed or anxious, or that I’ve figured out some perfect path for my life. Hell, I have no idea what I’ll be doing tomorrow, let alone a year or two from now. But I lived to graduate, get better, and find my passion for hiking. Thru-hiking seems like a good culmination to this chapter of my life, and an amazing start to the next one.

Why Hiking?

Well, if you’re here, you probably like hiking too. Which means I don’t have to convince you how refreshing it is to be out in the woods sans technology and people. That’s one reason. The other? Well, I have asthma. I can’t run more than half a mile without using my inhaler, which means any sport that involves running (ie, soccer, basketball, etc), isn’t going to happen. With hiking, I can go at my own pace and at my own time (for the most part). I fell in love with hiking when I realized how much calmer my mind was out in the woods. I get so caught up in my future, my GPA, and what my job is going to be after I graduate, that I forget to stop and appreciate living. Being in the woods helps me do that, and since the day I had that realization, I’ve been obsessed with being outdoors.

Why a Thru-Hike?

This past summer, I went on a cross-country trip living in my Subaru Forester with my boyfriend, Dan. We slept in state and national forests, and BLM land. It was my crazy idea of converting my Subie that made that trip become a reality. I remember lying in the Subie one night and asking Dan what was next. Neither of us knew. I just knew I couldn’t put my adventurous side on hold. I had to find another intimidating, challenging, and rewarding thing to do. Hiking the Appalachian Trail just naturally felt like the next adventure.

Why Now?

I’m graduating college, have minimal obligations, and want to see if I can do this thing by myself. Honestly, I have no idea if I can, but I don’t think anyone knows that they can hike thousands of miles until they actually do it. Before I went to college, everyone told me to “follow my dreams” and “pick a field I was really passionate about.” I’ve thought a lot about that over the past two and a half years. Though most of those people that said I should “follow my dreams” meant academically (and probably thought I would try to become a microbiologist or doctor), I have a different way of interpreting that statement. I should follow my dreams, regardless of whether they’re academically relevant, important to my family and friends, or have anything to do with a future career. As long as I can make it financially feasible, I don’t see why not to do something as adventurous as thru-hiking the AT.

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Comments 10

  • Watermelon : Oct 14th

    Can’t wait to read your blog!

    Reply
    • Sauce : Oct 14th

      Thank you! 🙂

      Reply
      • Raquel : Oct 16th

        Will keep you in my prayers. You go girl.
        I’m 69 in February, of 2020 I will be 70.
        And I also dream of doing the trail.

        Reply
  • Kate Stillwell : Oct 15th

    … hiking after graduation is a wonderful way to close the door on your formal education and open it to a new reality. Hiking now is completely “forgivable” on your resume and will most likely draw admiration and place you ahead of other applicants. My daughter “Tink(erbell)” thru hiked SOBO in 2017 and she parlayed that experience nicely when applying for work. You will be viewed as a leader and a person with determination and one who is capable of flexibility and commitment … go for it! Good luck!

    Reply
    • Sauce : Oct 15th

      Thank you! I’m glad to hear your daughter had a good experience with a SOBO hike and using her experience after the thru-hike for job opportunities.

      Reply
  • Jen *Cubana* : Oct 15th

    I usually never comment on something I just read. But the link to your introduction poped up on fb and I somehow thought: well I need to read this.
    And after I decided I also need to write a comment.

    First: There is never the best time to start an adventure. Some people are waiting for the perfect timing and end up doin nothing.
    That was my motto. I did the AT in 2017 right after I graduated from university. And for me it was the best. (Not always, because it was hard to get a job after, but I suppose it would have bene hard to get a job after graduating anyways. so f**k it.) Just do it. I could finally do something else than just learning and being a good student.

    It is not only totally forgivable in a resumee but helped me having some relly interesting interviews.

    I know I do not know you. But I am proud of you, that you are following your dreams.
    I was in kind of in the same position as you. Traumatic experiences, never camped before, never hiked longer than a day hike, and was unsure about doing that adventure right after school. But this thru hike helped me a lot. More than anything else could. I won’t lie, there will be hard days, rough ones, destroying ones. But it will lead to something big.

    A year is good enough to prepare. You will learn a lot more while on trail. It’s learning by doing and a trail+ error.
    You got this.

    I wish you all the best. And yes: follow your dream. Go for it!

    Reply
    • Sauce : Oct 15th

      Thank you for the encouragement! You’re right that there’s never a perfect time to start an adventure and sometimes you just have to jump right in. I’m glad to hear that the thru-hiked helped you personally, even if not always forgivable on a resume (which I know will be a challenge for me as well).

      Reply
  • Gigi : Oct 15th

    The views along the A.T. are unbelievable!! I began hiking it with my boyfriend (had to stop due to a knee injury plus family matters) planning to get back to it 2020! Hike-ur-own hike is the one thing to definitely remember!

    Reply
  • Mike : Oct 18th

    Sauce,
    I am a 67 year old male and this is my story.
    I was a much younger guy of 17 when I read an article about a then 17 year old Eric Ryback who had just thru hiked the PCT. I was so captivated by that story I actually sat and wrote to him.
    I thought if he can do that I can certainly hike the Appalachian Trail. Well life happens and sadly I never did. I often thought about it but the time was never right. Fast forward 46 years. I am standing in line at a CVS waiting on a prescription when I spot a paperback with the title Hiking Through. I picked it up and started to read and read and read.
    At that moment I was flooded with memories and emotion. So much time had gone by but that rushed feeling of thru hiking was still there. I bought the book took it home and read it…..several times.
    This had rekindled my desire to hike the AT all over again. My kids were now grown and gone I was retired so I had the time and the financial means to do so. I have been married to Anne for 41 years. We have been through a lot in that time and she was not thrilled about me going off for 6 months to walk in the woods.
    I tried section hiking, doing all of MA , CT and part of ME. I thought that might quench my thirst to thru hike but it only served to fuel it. But it is not to be.
    Please listen when I tell you. There will never be a perfect time to do your hike, so do it. You will never be rich enough to do it, so just do it. Tomorrow is promised to no one , so just do it. Hiking is fuel for your soul, so please just do it.
    Mike

    Reply
  • kelerein : Nov 7th

    Awesome vacation locations. Love them. Thanks for posting them.

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    Reply

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